Vol.6, No.2 | [Articles] State Intervention in the Grain Trade of Malta (16th-20th Century)




Until the early twentieth century, bread was graded and its quality sanctioned social distinctions in Maltese society. At a time when harvest failure often meant famine and death, setting the price of bread was one of the most difficult tasks from late medieval times to the early nineteenth century. During its stay in Malta, the Hospitaller Order of St John (1530-1798) depended heavily on imported duty-free grain from Sicily. Matters did not change much when Malta was a British Protectorate (1800-1814) but the island witnessed an overhaul in its system of grain provisioning as a British colony (1814-1964). In an attempt to improve the quality of bread for the mass of Maltese, the British colonial administration introduced a ‘free-trade’ policy.